A study by the research firm Influence Central found the average age a child first owns a smartphone is 10-years-old. Tamiko Young was surprised to hear that statistic and said her 10-year-old daughter Jakaya has been asking for one for the past year, especially because all her friends already have one.
“Just being on social media and she loves getting on YouTube, I know there are things on social media and on YouTube that I prefer for her not to see,” said Young. “I’ve actually seen videos myself, like Dora the Explorer but it was adult content.”
Young also expressed concern about the interactions her daughter may have with other children on social media apps.
“The cyberbullying and stuff that’s going on, It’s happening with kids getting younger and younger,” added Young. “I’m just scared of her seeing things she doesn’t need to see and possible cyberbullying going on at a very young age.”
To help protect her daughter, Young even goes as far as not posting many pictures or videos of her daughter online.
“We have had information that kids are downloading social media apps on their phone while they’re at school, using their cellular data plan and then once they leave school, they will delete the apps and their parents won’t have any idea it was on there,” said Houston. “There are certain ways to find out what they’ve downloaded, again, you can just log in to whatever account you have and It gives you a list of the apps they’ve downloaded.”
Houston said children can encounter cyberbullying and child exploitation while using the internet or social media apps.
“If a child is convinced to take nude pictures, once one inappropriate picture is taken, then that person uses that image against them to take more,” added Houston.
Houston offered several options for parents to keep up with what their children are doing on their phones including:
Setting up your phone to download the same apps your child has
Setting up your child’s device to not download anything without parental approval
Keeping your child’s device in your room overnight and going over the incoming messages in the morning
Using apps that allow parents to disable their child’s phone with the exception of phone calls
In addition to monitoring the phone, Houston suggested parents trust their child and to go through the phone with the children and discuss appropriate behavior while using the phone.